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Utah Jazz Match Offer Sheet for Gordon Hayward

haywardmugThe Utah Jazz have matched the Hornets’ offer to restricted free agent Gordon Hayward, reports Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The $15 million or so in cap space that deal tied up is once again available for Charlotte to pursue other free agents.

There was some anxiety that the Hornets might miss out on other prime free agents while waiting, but the Jazz moved quickly, signing Hayward a day and a half before they were obligated to. Relatively few players signed over that stretch — potential targets such as Vince Carter and Steve Blake might have fit, but the market has moved slowly enough that there are plenty of options out there.

That includes shooting guard Lance Stephenson, who The Sporting News reports is next in line for the Hornets. Stephenson’s pros and cons have been discussed at length, but he’s one of the top wings left on the market, along with Luol Deng and Trevor Ariza.

Stephenson is probably the most appealing of that trio, at least in basketball terms. The team seems ready to move on from Gerald Henderson, reportedly shopping him in recent months, and Stephenson fits in at shooting guard. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s defensive versatility gives the team some flexibility there, but I’m sure they’d prefer to keep him in his usual spot at small forward.

Meanwhile, the team will resume its pursuit of combo forward Marvin Williams, which was on hiatus until the Jazz matched Hayward’s deal. Backup point guard is a priority, too, and the team is reportedly interested in Kirk Hinrich and DJ Augustin (!).

Other notes

— Even though it wasn’t a successful gamble, it sounds like the team went all-out to woo Hayward. From Jody Genessy at the Deseret News:

The Hornets made a big effort to impress Hayward, including a Skype session with owner Michael Jordan, tours of the area, personalized marketing ideas for him in Charlotte, and visits with coach Steve Clifford and TV analyst Dell Curry (the former Jazz guard). Hayward and his family also spent time with Big Al and Charlotte personnel at a dinner at general manager Rich Cho’s home.

One of the fun highlights of the two-day recruiting trip was right up the video-game aficionado’s alley. The Hornets inserted Hayward into a Starcraft game, one of his favorites, and showed the entertaining video on the large screen inside of Time Warner Cable Arena. Every screen inside of the arena, by the way, welcomed Hayward to Charlotte.

Also, four different statistical analysts made presentations, showing how Hayward would excel in the Hornets’ system.

It’s good the team got to flex their muscles a bit, and the pitch did end up working. Putting the Zerg rush on Hayward by pandering to his dorkiness is hilarious, though.

— On draft night, there were reports the Cavaliers would acquire Brendan Haywood and second-round pick Dwight Powell from Charlotte in exchange for Alonzo Gee’s unguaranteed contract. That made Friday’s news that Cleveland would be shipping Gee to the New Orleans Pelicans for a second-round pick slightly confusing.

That got cleared up today. Instead of Gee’s unguaranteed contract, Charlotte will receive Scotty Hopson’s unguaranteed contract (and cash). It’s essentially the same deal.